Traveling to a country and being there is an important advantage for a writer. Research can’t replace the impressions and feelings one experiences by immersion in the culture. The sound, the look, the language, the humor, the food—all of these make an impact that color the story.
What difference does personal experience make? After all, a work of fiction is what you want it to be. The authenticity of details enhances what is believable. Even readers of fiction will reject descriptions that are inaccurate or don’t ring true. Their attention leaves the story and grapples with what is out of place. The logic of the human mind is always at work.
In some ways, writing is like painting. Most people appreciate realism, firmly planted in the truth of accurate portrayals. Many people will accept impressionism, relying on gestures and forms which rely upon the viewer’s mind for completion. Furthest away from popular taste is abstraction, a created world with few familiar signposts, requiring the viewer to search for meaning in unfamiliar territory.
Art has no definition. Popular acceptance does.